Monday, July 21, 2014

Meanwhile Back at the NCRS

So the corn at the NCRS was planted later than normal due to uncornish spring weather.  And it's been cool this summer besides.  So I was pleased to see some corn tassels finally emerged last Wednesday when I stopped by in between the growth conference sessions. In a good year you can see the start of tassels around the 4th of July.  Unfortunately some corn is still only chest high though.
Brian had some work to do making foliar fertilizer applications to Concord grapes.  He was using the backpack air blast sprayer.  It does a great job of leaf coverage.
And we were were happy to have a couple of visitors.  It was Reid and Brady.  I was just with them in Louisiana and they were so enthralled with research down there that they came by to catch some top notch research at the NCRS. Below we see Brian giving them the low down on what's up at the NCRS.
 Then on Friday I made a return visit to the NCRS.  I wanted to spend some time in the field with two of the college interns: Kelly and Jimmy.  They are working in specialty/horticulture crops with Dr. Brian.  I wanted them to show me around and see some of what they have learned.  Here we are looking at some of the vegetable plots on Farm 12 that will be on the Research Field Days.  Behind is the fast growing celery that I showed being planted in an earlier blog post.  Won't be long until we will need some cheese spread to go along with it. 

Each of the interns has a special project to oversee.  Jimmy is testing some magnesium foliar treatments on potatoes.  Which of the treatments will be most effective?  Only Jimmy knows.
And Kelly is going to be measuring the effects of different fertilizers on fruit quality of Concord grapes. These have a ways to go but are in good hands.  (OK that pun analogy sounds pretty lame.  But they really are.)  
I don't think I have ever revealed the unfortunate incident that occurred in the apple orchard last winter. But I think enough time has passed that the truth can now be told.  It seems that the snow got so deep last winter, that ravenous rabbits were able to reach up beyond the tree guards and eat the bark which essentially girdled the trees.  They did this under the cover of night and was not a factor with normal snowfall the previous winter. There was an epidemic of this in Michigan.  So the tops of the trees would have died anyway, and it was necessary to remove the part of the tree above the damage zone. This would promote new stem growth.  New growth was rapid with the removal of apical dominance. Then it is necessary to set one stem as the new leader and guide it to grow straight while training the side branches to grow....well, sideways to be attached to the wire in the future.  Clothespins are being used to direct growth.  Neat trick.  Below you can see how it works.  See the branch beneath the pin is being pushed out, and after time, will become thick and can be attached to the guidewire.
Below we see Kelly attaching clothespins.  Both she and Jimmy said that they have learned a lot about apples working on this recovery effort.  This rabbit invasion has set the research behind a few years, but the trees will fully recover.  
The problem though, is with high density planting, there are over a couple thousand trees to be pinned in the orchard. They also need to be re-checked from time to time as well.  
So to answer the question: there is a big fence around the orchard.  But that is for deer.  And there were no deer that got in.  But rabbits got in and new prevention efforts will have to be implemented.  But they are recovering nicely now with the care by Jimmy and Kelly.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Exploring Excellence

So last week at Liquid headquarters in St. Johns we had the growth conference for AgroLiquid area managers.  The theme was Exploring Excellence.  There were two sessions: Monday to Wednesday and Wednesday to Friday, take your pick.  But there were dealers from all over the country and it was a good time for interaction and a great learning opportunity.  The coming year is likely to present challenges in areas of probable low crop prices, environmental issues, climatic unknowns and who knows what else.  So an effort was made to provide some information that would be beneficial to our dealers business going forward.  Can we proceed with excellence and preparation?  Well hopefully there was information presented to help. The meetings were held at the new company office, and there was plenty of room to spread out and have some discussions during breaks. 
There were numerous presentations.  In fact you had to choose between three simultaneous presenters each time.  Topics included nutrient legislation, ag economics outlook, employee training, sales programs, selling in complex markets, production management, water efficiency and of course, several research presentations and updates.  Plus a new methodology developed by AgroLiquid to replace salt index.  And much more.  Including Dr. Chris Underwood giving a "how it works" presentation on eNhance, Sure-K, flavonol chemistry plus an overview on new experimentals being researched at the NCRS.  It was the first time that I remember that such information was presented and it was well received.
Stephanie and Tim gave a "how they do it" presentation of research at the NCRS plus the research that gave us new products in recent years like ferti-Rain, eNhance, accesS, Kalibrate and others.  With more to come too.
We were also pleased to have Brian Hefty take time away from preparations for the Ag PhD Field Day next week to come talk to us.  He talked about challenges facing production agriculture, plus a whole bunch of ways to use nutrition and soil management to get the most out of fields for crop yield.  That was on Tuesday.
And not to be outdone, Darren Hefty came to address the second session group on Thursday.  He pretty much addressed the same topics, but had his own perspective and experiences to share.  It's easy to see why these brothers are essentially the voice of reason in agriculture.  They challenged us to explain the truth and benefits of agriculture and food production to the non-ag public.  Darren told about how his dad used to look for people at a gas station filling their cars with regular gasoline and pull up next to them and engage in conversation with them about the benefits of ethanol blends being cleaner than dirty gasoline.  It was a great story.
Lunch was a barbeque under the tent outside.  This was Tuesday.  It was a nice sunny but cool day.  Troy looks like he is enjoying the excellent food.  Everyone else did too, including me.
Now the above picture was taken at 12:18 and the picture below was at 12:27.  So in 9 minutes it went from sunny to downpour.  Bob Buessing is un-fazed.  It must rain all the time in Kansas.  But it was sunny again in a little while. It was a crazy weather week though.
Troy had two very good presentations to the whole group.  At the conference in the day at St. Johns he talked about the "why" of what we do, and how that is more important than the "what" or "how" we do what we do. He also talked about the Responsible Nutrient Management foundation, and how it is working to promote what is right in agriculture. And at the banquet at the hotel in Lansing, he talked about excellence and leadership, which was kind of the theme of the conference anyway.  I've heard Troy give presentations for over twenty years, but he was really prepared and passionate here.  We have to take this attitude as we go forward to continue to promote AgroLiquid for our nations growers.
Another highlight of the conference was a tour of the IQ Hub.  It is not fully operational, but there was enough going on to see how great this will be when completed.  My favorite is the depiction of the beginning of Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers as Mr. Cook and Troy use the "bucket brigade" to put ingredients together for what would become the products that were the basis for what we still use today. (Must be weird to see yourself in a museum.  But this had to be shown, as this is how it all started.)
 We were fortunate to have a number of FFA students on site to give explanations of the exhibits.  Like this one that showed how ground up bones was one of the first sources of phosphorus fertilizer. (And that's a real original bone grinder there in the display.)
There is a theater for video exhibits, like this one about feeding the growing population on our planet. Bob seems amused.  Now turn around and pay attention! Notice the corn growth stages going around on the top of the theater.  That was designed by Stephanie and Tim, as well as the nutrient displays around the roots.  Gotta see that one. 
 There are numerous interactive displays, like this one on soils and soil tests and other related subjects.
And they put the NCRS interns to work as well.  Here is Emily explaining the barrel depiction of Liebig's Law of the...now is it "Minimum" or "Maximum"?  I should have paid attention. 
And here is the Kid's Room.  I could tell because it was full of kids.  It certainly looked like they were having fun.  They probably didn't even know that they were learning stuff.
There were lot's of other displays in the IQ Hub.  The person behind all of the planning and development is Burt Henry, and I'm sure he was a nervous wreck before the opening for the conference. But it was a huge success for our visit, and we are all looking forward to the real Grand Opening. Hope everyone can come back.  There will be another tour opportunity at the Research Field Days. That is reason enough to attend right there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

AL Crop Research

So that AL would be Alabama, where I went last week (on Wednesday) after LA to check on yet some more crop research.  I was picked up in Montgomery by SAM Jourday and taken a little ways North to meet Christy Hicks who is a Regional Extension agent for this area.  She is doing some plot work in cotton to evaluate foliar fertilizer treatments, including Sure-K.  She had cooperated with Jourdan on some similar work in the past, and now is expanding the investigation.  She is very nice and anxious to see this through.  The cotton had just been sprayed a couple days ago.  No differences yet, but I'm patient.  Below we see Christy bring Jourdan up to speed on what is going on in the plots.  It was around 95 degrees, and we see Jourdan sporting the new long sleeve sporty Liquid attire.  Even though it is dark color and long sleeve, it is supposed to wick away your sweat. That's not a pleasant thought, but Jourdan said he was keeping his cool.  I'll admit I was hot.  But I wasn't being wicked. 
We also looked at the plots with similar treatments at the nearby E.V. Smith Research Center which is part of the Alabama Experiment Station which is run by Auburn University.  This plot was recently sprayed with Sure-K.  Nope, still can't see any differences.  But I'm optimistic that this will be a boll buster come fall harvest.  Christy is very nice and certainly a pleasure to visit with and she is anxious to see this work too.  It will be a benefit to the fine farmers of Alabams.  The crops could use a little shower as the nearby corn plots were starting to roll their leaves.
I had only been to Montgomery once several years ago, but didn't get to do any sight seeing then.  But there was still some daylight, so what is there to see?  Well, here is the first white house of the Confederacy.  It was lived in by Jefferson Davis and his family until the capital was moved to Richmond, VA in 1861.  I guess I had forgotten that Montgomery was the Confederate capital once. Well it seems I'm seeing several sites about Jefferson Davis this summer.  (Recall the monument in Kentucky just a few blogs ago.)
And right across the street is the capital of Alabama.  They have all of the states flags there in front. They are in alphabetical order so that Alabama could be first.  Michigan is in the M section.  Well as we were driving to dinner that night the skies opened up and rained super hard on us.  I forgot to take a picture if you can believe that.  Jourdan's windshield wipers worked, but were having trouble keeping the waterfall from the sky cleared away.  Hope some of it soaked in on the cotton where we were earlier.  But it rained so hard it may have just r-u-n-n-o-f-t.
I left very early the next morning to come back to Michigan.  I think 5:30 am flights should be illegal, but I did get back to Lansing at 1:00.  Inside the Montgomery airport is this display commemorating the former Blue-Gray Football Classic.  I remember that game.  It was a college all star game for seniors and teams were based on whether their college was in the old Confederate states or not.  And it was played in Montgomery from its start in 1939 until it's demise in 2001.  But look at all the jerseys of famous former players.  Many of these guys are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Art Monk, Fran Tarkenton, YA Tittle, Len Dawson, Bart Starr, Don Maynard and Chuck Bednarik.  And I actually got an autographed picture from D.D. Lewis.  (I love pro football.)
Well that was my week in LA and AL.  Don't think there are any other states whose two letter postal abbreviations are mirror images.  Oh wait, there's Minnesota (MN) and New Mexico (NM).  Probably won't make that combination anytime soon.  But this was a good week for research visits, Liquid camaraderie, good food and some interesting sights.  (I'm signing off, but still thinking if there are any more states like that.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

LA Crop Research

So that LA would be Louisiana, where I went last week to check on some contract research tests down there.  Loyal readers will recall that I have reported for years here in the blog about the Louisiana fertilizer plots on various Southern crops.  One of those is sugarcane.  This test in Cheneyville which is just South of Alexandria, and is with contract researcher Grady Coburn shown below.  Grady is well known in Louisiana as a consultant, crop scout and researcher.
This is our second test on newly planted sugarcane, or plant cane, at this location.  This crop was planted last fall by laying cane pieces in the ground and then bedding them up.  They would emerge in the spring.  However, this place is on the northern part of the sugarcane growing area of the state, and last winter was unusually cold for this part of the South.  In fact they had several snows with total amounts of 12 inches, which hardly ever happens.  But the cold was hard on the planted cane pieces, and it killed some of the buds which limited emergence in some parts of some plots as seen below. Additionally, some shoots are still emerging which also is a symptom of cold injury.  Also visiting the site is agronomist Reid, new SAM Brady and RSM Sean.  Adjustments will have to be made for this stand reduction and late emergence.  It may be that the whole thing will have to be scrubbed and re-planted.  So while they didn't have to deal with a whole winter of snow like much of the country, including Michigan, winter did rear its ugly head down here too.  (Never understood the phrase rear its head.  Seems contradictory.)
We could see some growth differences though.  Below is a plot that just had nitrogen only, no P, K, S or anything else.  The N is 32% UAN injected into the beds after emergence.  (That's the rear of Brady's head.  Now I didn't say ugly.)
Here is a conventional dry fertilizer plot, which had dry P, K and S spread and lightly incorporated prior to emergence in the spring.  It also had the 32% UAN injection.  It is certainly taller than the previous plot, so you can see the effects of the extra nutrition.
But here is a plot that had Pro-Germinator + Kalibrate + accesS + Micro 500 knifed in prior to emergence, and then received an N injection of 32% with eNhance.  It was noticeably taller and darker green.  We will see how it turns out come fall harvest.  We also have a foliar application of NResponse for some plots planned.  So stay tuned.  Too bad about the cold damage though, as it affected plots differently.  But they only hand harvest a portion of the plot anyway.  Every year I keep volunteering Reid to be there to help, but he is always busy that day.  Maybe this year.
Here is new SAM Brady standing next to some experimental corn that is taller than he can reach. However, Brady is only 4 feet tall.  He is new with AgroLiquid having just graduated from West Texas State University.  But he has a strong ag background and is familiar with Liquid from his association with personnel at Patton Custom Fertilizer in Sunray, Texas.  Brady will spend the rest of the summer in training, including time at the NCRS, to prepare him to be released into his new territory.  Where will that be?  I won't say now so as not to make those people nervous.  But I can tell that he will be a good SAM once he gets some more fertilizer learnin'.  (And he really is taller than 4 feet.)
After that we went down the road towards Lafayette where we have some more research plots at yet another contract researcher.  Below we again Brady, Reid and Sean with researcher John Lee.  They are looking at a soybean test.
Here we are testing some different fertilizers applied as in-furrow or foliar, but on narrow or wide rows.  In this case the narrow rows are 19" apart and the wide rows are 38".  It seems that 38" is the common width for cotton, and a lot of planters around here are set up this way.  Some have interplant boxes to enable narrower rows that will yield higher than wide rows.  There is always concern with in-furrow fertilizer applications in wide rows and the potential for stand reduction from fertilizer contact.  It's usually safe enough in narrower rows.  But we will see here on this light textured ground.  
We also have fertilizer test in cotton.  It all looks good right now.  By then the sky was getting dark as rain clouds were rolling in.  It was humid and in the 90's, so conditions were right for thunderstorms. 
There was very heavy rain with lightning and thunder.  Reid was driving his trusty Taurus.  I told him he needed a new pair of windshield wipers.  But he said they are hardly ever used where he lives in South Texas and they were out of shape.
We drove down to New Iberia.  There is a lot of sugarcane down there.  And they weren't affected by the cold like that back to the North. It stopped raining long enough for me to take this picture as we headed back towards Alexandria.  Crop looks good to me.
And here is the other reason I like coming to Louisiana: the food.  We were told to eat at the Red River Grill in the small town of Marksville.  Not even sure where it is, somewhere towards Alexandria.  But it lived up to the billing as a great place to eat.  As is my custom, here is a picture of my meal.  It is an order of Pecan Crusted Soft Shell Crab with lump crabmeat and Creole Bearnaise.  (That's interesting having crab with lump crabmeat on top.  Maybe sometime I'll order steak with lump steakmeat on top.) And I think those are green beans on the right.  It all tasted as good as it looked.
Well that was a long day for sure.  But the next day was also an adventure.  Come back for that later.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Slogging Through the NCRS Scavenger Hunt

So recall that I recently had a blog post that showed the NCRS staff going through a scavenger hunt practice run before the real one with the various Sales managers and some of the office staff.  Well that happened last Wednesday when the sales managers and agronomists were in town for a meeting.  Here are a bunch of them eating lunch before heading out.  The group certainly did not get loaded down with food so that they would stay hungry...for the right answers.
 
Stephanie and Tim gave mission instructions prior to being released.  Everyone was assigned to a team of four Liquidites of various job backgrounds.
 Transportation mostly consisted of the official sales car: the Taurus or van.  Remember that this event required diagnosis of crop and fertility questions and use of the Research iPads.  They all had their maps and questions.  Another challenge was that it had rained the previous two days, so those that brought boots were envied.  Here is the start.  I don't know why no one is running.  They only have two hours.
 Here is a team looking at some vegetable plants planted in plastic covered beds on Farm 2.
 At first most people left the cars parked on the road.  A little risky driving on the grass lanes here on Farm 7.  Hope this team is on the right track.
There were questions about various crops, agronomic practices, nutrients, soils....and a bunch of other stuff that the Research managers came up with.  This team on Farm 7 must have had a disagreement or something since there is no solidarity in their walk.  Now, now...it's just a game.
SAM Jourdan is either confident of Victory, or maybe is off to the second stop.  Or has to take a number 2.  (I'll pay for that.)
 Galynn and I mostly drove around with me taking pictures and him bothering the farm staff at some of the stops.  Here is that Farm 11 puzzle stop that I showed earlier.  Phil reminds Galynn that it's "i" before "e" except after "c" in the spelling of the Fase 2.  Galynn appreciated the help.
After awhile some teams were tired of walking and took to driving on Farm 7.  There was a stuck Taurus there, but the team pushed it out.  Too bad that wasn't part of the hunt.   Also too bad I didn't get picture of that.  But it was teamwork.
Now here on Farm 5 was a cool event: a tractor obstacle course.  But nobody was doing it.  Well one team did stop by later.  Admittedly there were far more questions than time to do them.  So Galynn and I visited with Mitch of the NCRS and agronomist Reid.  They look pretty skeptical at believing whatever it is Galynn is saying.  Like that he could complete the course the fastest.
There was backing, turning, more backing, and no speed limits.  Hit a flag and you're out. Here Galynn takes one of many turns.  Well we all did.  And it shames me to say that he did in fact end up with the fastest time.
A corn conundrum on Farm 3.
Now for variety there was a potato sling shot.  Farthest spud wins.  Gerritt is about to let it fly. I wonder if they needed helmets for the two holders?
After the hunt was over and a treat of NCRS strawberry shortcake, the group took a wagon ride over to the high density apple orchard so Brian and Dan (far right) could give an orchard update.  It was an interesting learning opportunity especially since most people aren't too much in the know on the particulars of orchard nutrition and management.  But this is the place to learn.
So Mother Nature gave us a break as the rain held off during the afternoon event.  Tim and Stephanie scored the team answer sheets and gave out prizes.  However I don't really remember the rankings.  But you know that if personnel from AgroLiquid are involved, then their heads are full of...knowledge for a top crop.  Yes, that's what I meant.